Education Day 2020

by Lizette Lewis

The LGS Class of 2020 can attest to being the most adaptable LGS class ever! In fact, no other LGS class has experienced the challenges that this class has, due to the pandemic. Education Day ended up being the very last class day for the Class of 2020 and it actually was the most fitting to end the LGS Class of 2020 experience. Although, Education Day was originally supposed to be held in April, as the longest running design team ever, YES, ever…we had to navigate the uncertainty and ever changing dynamics of the world around us, which caused us to change our agenda and class day numerous times. As a design team and with the incredible support of LGS Program Director Robin Macaluso, we were able to deliver a class day that was sure to leave our classmates pondering on our theme: “Learning as We Go” – The Evolving Landscape of Education- Thinking Outside the Classroom.


Education Day’s goal:

To hear from local educational administrators, teachers, students and nonprofits. We will Learn how COVID has impacted education in our community, how educators and the educational system are adapting to try to meet the challenges, how the pandemic will impact education long-term and be inspired by stories of perseverance and leadership growth through the crisis.


HOMEROOM: Class Day Announcements + “Welcome to Education Day”

LGS Education Day started promptly at 8:00am. Our creative and extremely talented design team member, Ron Zuccaro created a Music Soundtrack for the day and kicked off (which can be found at the end of the blog) pre-announcements with a clip from Billy Madison- Back to School and Ferris Bueller.  Homeroom featured classroom announcements with LGS Executive Director Pam Brunet and design team members Ed Marks and Eric Will who welcomed the class.


1st PERIOD: “Learning as We Go – Leadership Through Crisis”

Around 8:15am sharp, design team member, Christine Stevens  welcomed the class to 1st period and introduced the first guest speaker of the day, Dr. Donna DeSiato, ESM Superintendent, LGS ‘05. Dr. DeSiato focused her presentation on what school will look like in the future due to the pandemic and utilizing her leadership skills to navigate a new way of learning. Dr.DeSiato goals for the presentation included’

  • -Developing a shared understanding for how COVID-19 has impacted education,
  • -exploring how COVID-19 will change and shape the future in the long run,
  • -finding balance as a leader in the midst of a crisis such as a pandemic, and
  • -reflecting on how her leadership style, continued learning and growth as a leader.

As the superintendent, Dr. DeSiato’s vision includes being an exemplary 21st century learning community whose graduates are prepared to excel in a complex interconnected changing world. As a class, we all learned that it is important to think with the end in mind and shift the paradigm from an industrial age model to an innovative learning design model. What does this mean? Dr. DeSiato noted that: Learning is:

  • -constant and time is the variable;
  • -engaging;
  • -is everywhere and anywhere;
  • -recognizes individual differences;
  • -learning space and time is flexible.

To combat COVID impacts, Dr. DeSiato set up a tech hotline for her students and  ensures she continues to cultivate relationships by making sure students know that she can be reached anytime. “Kids know I listen,” Dr. DeSiato stated. As we all prepare for the future, the education system affects us all, whether we have children or are involved in the education system, the future of education will impact the future leaders of the world. Dr. DeSiato truly cares about all her students and understands that the many changes that NYS Governor Cuomo orders from in-person to remote to hybrid is in the best interest of her district. One of the key takeaways from Dr. DeSiato’s presentation was making sure you balance life and know your priorities, even in light of the pandemic. Dr. DeSiato’s presentation was a wonderful way to start our day!


2nd PERIOD: “School Challenges During COVID-19”

Prior to 2nd period, a quick AM snack time break was held for the class. Design team member, Sheba Graham introduced the next guest speaker, Eva Williams, Principal of Van Duyn Elementary School. Mrs. Williams discussed the current challenges that the pandemic has introduced her with at Van Duyn Elementary School. “All children, can and will succeed”, is a philosophy that Mrs. Williams embodies everyday to her students. Similar to Dr. DeSiato, her challenge lies on how to keep students interconnected as a hybrid school (2x in person, 3x remote) weekly. Mrs. Williams mentioned the importance of maintaining and building relationships with her students. The new normal way becomes a lifestyle, and although a challenge, Mrs. Williams has adjusted and maintained the mindset that care is the most important concept to maintain.


During the summer, when COVID was definitely somewhat new, Mrs. Williams made sure that up 350 meals were delivered to students, maintaining a monthly assembly to recognize student achievements via mail to keep engagement and maintain school culture; while preparing Christmas holiday plans on keeping the tradition of students picking a toy, but this time making sure each student has a blanket, book, mug and hot chocolate. Mrs. Williams thinks of her school like family and understands that her demographic of students is primarily black and brown students who are of low-income background. Equity, diversity and inclusion are key points that Mrs. Williams focuses on and shifting mindsets to create a quality education for all students continues to be her goal. For instance, Mrs. Williams makes sure that her faculty and staff are culturally responsive to the needs of their students through partnerships with SUNY Oswego and Empire State College to conduct monthly facilitation workshops on everyday anti-racism that examines one self and the curriculum. One of the most prominent key takeaways from Mrs. Williams was her discussion on how important it is to show students that you care and she stated, “You cannot teach somebody you don’t love.” That statement made the entire class really sit back and ponder. It was deep to say the least, but left a lasting impression for us all.


3rd PERIOD: “WCNY’s Educational Mission of Service to the Community” 

Design team member, Becky Ponza welcomed the class to 3rd period and introduced Debbie Stack, VP of Education and Community Engagement. Ms. Stack presented on the social and emotional learning impacts during COVID and how WCNY is using their platform to keep students engaged. WCNY helped address the lack of technology access for many city students by using their broadcast to create a platform called the TV Classroom Network. Some of the virtual programming WCNY has incorporated includes virtual family learning experiences, ready to learn programming and free tips for parents via text. In collaboration with the Syracuse City School District, student lessons are determined by instructors and WCNY makes these lessons available for all because cable TV is not required. A lasting statement made by Ms. Stack was, “Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. It is okay to ask for help.” It is safe to say transparency and the ability to be vulnerable is so crucial, more than ever due to the impacts of COVID.


4th PERIOD: “Financial Impacts” 

After lunch, design team member Samantha Muldoon introduced the next guest speaker, Mary Habib, Director of Budget, Syracuse City School District. Mrs. Habib discussed the financial impacts of financial education in light of COVID. As one of the “Big 5” districts, NYS school districts are part of serving ½ of NY State’s children. The Syracuse City School District (SCSD) is definitely impacted by the pandemic. As a class, we learned that the SCSD is recognized as “independent” in which the City of Syracuse establishes the budget and it is not voted on by the community. Mrs. Habib discussed the three types of funds in the district- General Fund (State aid), Grant (Federal or State) and the Cafeteria Fund. A hot topic of discussion for many classmates was how Charter Schools are incorporated into the City School District. Mrs. Habib explained that the district pays for funding of city students who attend Charter schools and the district pays Charter schools transportation, health services, tuition, enrollment and material costs (computers, books etc.). Finance and budgeting can be a very sticky and complicated topic to comprehend, but Mrs. Habib provided a great thorough presentation that left the class eager to learn more about the financial impacts of education in Central New York.


5th PERIOD: “Navigating Through the Pandemic to Create a Better Future for Students” One of the most compelling and inspiring presentations of the day was introduced by design team member, Kim Freson. Kim introduced Sam Rowser, Executive Director of On Point for College and twin sisters Najah Johnson and Najier Johnson who are participants of On Point for College. Sam Rowser started his presentation by sharing his personal story of trials and tribulations. Mr. Rowser’s personal story resonates with the socioeconomic backgrounds of many of On Point’s student population in need. Mr. Rowser explained that On Point is a college access program geared towards ages 17-29, but is accessible for anyone who wishes to obtain college entry support. On Point partners with BOCES, LeMoyne College and non-profit organizations aimed at helping students. Some of the services that On Point provides include college application support, college tours, career services and even providing transportation and housing support for students. Mr. Rowser explained that as a leader, he has to think differently due to the pandemic, but still aims at supporting students in any way that he can. The Johnson sisters, as Mr. Rowser calls them, are both participants of On Point and shared their personal journey that On Point has supported every step of the way. As first generation college students, they touched upon how On Point changed their lives, helping them apply to college and find their true calling which is to be in the social work profession. Currently, both sisters attend Syracuse University studying social work and hope to fulfill a path of helping others after graduation. They spoke about the importance of mentorship and how On Point has provided everything they need and more to succeed. The Johnson sisters were an inspiration to the entire class and we can’t wait to see them do great things in the future!



LGS Education Day guest speakers were phenomenal! Each shared the overarching sentiment that care, leadership and moving forward in light of COVID are essential for their workplaces and who they serve. Design team member Nate Holliday closed the presentation portion of the day by acknowledging the class’s ability to rise to the challenge and adapt our leadership styles in light of the pandemic. All design team members were prompted to put on our caps and officially acknowledge that the LGS Class of 2020 has graduated by moving our tassels to the side. The real graduation ceremony is set to occur Summer, 2021, where we all hope to be in person. For now, we can all reflect on how well we all adjusted as a class even with our own personal and professional challenges.



The day officially came to an end with guest speakers Kathy Bennett, LGS Board President, Pam Brunet, LGS Executive Director and Robin Macaluso, LGS Program Director. Ms. Bennett noted that our class is the most unique and our experience is like no other- in fact, as board president, we all heard her say that LGS Class of 2020 is the BEST CLASS EVER! The most special part of the day, however, was acknowledging Robin and all the hard work she put in for all class days! As a class we gifted Robin with some delicious treats, a card and a class video of each of us thanking her for all that she has done for us. Robin, we so appreciate you. Pam, thank you for also making things happen in a time that was uncertain for us all! With that said, see you all next year, hopefully in person to celebrate a significant accomplishment.

Cheers to the LGS Class of 2020!



The Music Soundtrack for Education Day  

Enjoy !!    😊

Homeroom, Pre-Announcements – 8am sharp.   

( Billy Madison sings Back to School, 0:56 )

( Ferris Bueller, 0:43 )

AM Break, Snack Time  

( Principal’s Office, 4:14)

AM Break, Story Time 

( the story of “Back to School in 2020”, 4:36)

Lunch / Recess, Thinking Outside the Lunchbox 

( Wonderful World, 2:11)

(returning from lunch, 12:55pm)

 ( Conjunction Junction )

 ( Breakfast Club, Detention )

PM break, Nap Time 

( Wheels / Bus, 3:51) 


( after 5th period, before Nate Holliday)

   ( the Triple Lindy )

( after DISMISSAL with Nate Holliday)

   ( Breakfast Club, Don’t You Forget About Me )



   ( School’s Out, stop video clip at 0:50)